The concepts I describe here aren’t entirely unknown or new. We often act out of convenience or habit simply because it was shown that way. Specific techniques may require additional effort, extra care, and prep. It will ultimately pay off, as beautifully prepared canvases will last longer. In this case, you can lay down a clean sheet of paper, polyethylene, or glassine on the ground to ensure that grit is not embedded into the priming.
The 40-year experience I bring to the table is as a student and lover of art. As a conservator of paintings and an educator, my knowledge and expertise are based on my experiences. I learned much about canvas preparation during my training as a graduate student custom stretched canvas under Caroline and Sheldon Keck. They were legendary conservators at Cooperstown Graduate Program on the Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works. After years of observation and research, my original learnings have been altered.
For around 500 years, stretched canvas has become the most famous painting format. Other formats, like painting on wood panels or wall installations such as lime plaster fresco (or canvas stuck to the wall), had advantages and limitations. They were site-specific, heavy, awkward, and difficult to move. With the introduction of stretch canvas, large paintings could now be stretched over open wooden grid frames. This allowed them to be moved easily.
The success of any artwork, regardless of its format, will depend on how it is displayed, handled, adequately stored, and cared for over the years. The history of stretched paintings is revealed one by one: their aging, how well they are aged, and more. Proper canvas preparation is directly correlated with the longevity of your image. Suspension of fabric is essential for canvas paintings. The rest of a canvas that is well-stretched will be good. A picture can be well maintained, painted, and suspended for a long.
The tension of the canvas will vary if it is not evenly suspended. The extremes in pressure (too tight or loose) or planar distortions will cause negative results over time. Strain can be transferred from the fabric to the paint, varnish, and sizing applied atop it. This causes the layers to flake, crack and lift. All too well, we are aware of how physical and visible alterations can conspire to reduce the appeal of a prized piece. I aim to teach you how to ensure beautiful, uniform canvas tension. This technique works very similarly to that of trampolines. With this technique, you can avoid many failures to achieve flat, plane, and stretched canvases over time.
Many factors must be considered to prepare a canvas to the highest standard. This article will be limited to the stretcher itself due to space limitations. After the conclusion of this article, I invite artists to investigate the materials and references provided. Go to the goldenpaints.com home page for information sheets. We’ll start with a look at how the canvas is traditionally stretched. Stretching is usually done by marking the centers of the canvas (top, left, right, and bottom), testing and tacking the center points, and continuing stretching from there.